The Japanese approach to brush painting is transformative, involving the following of a philosophical and spiritual path. By following this path, the practitioner commits to self-cultivation, to achieving a higher and better self. Learning brush painting is more than engaging in a hobby; it is more than simply trying something out, picking it up and dropping it again when inconvenient. Inspired by Shinto and Buddhism, brush painting is one of the traditional Japanese ways in which a person can learn a more inclusive, overarching understanding of the wholeness of all life. Through following fu-do, the practitioner comes to recognize the union of mind and body, a united sense of self and the outside world, a communion between sentient and non-sentient beings.
Pursuing the art of the brush, the practitioner learns and incorporates in their life various cultural values, for example:
Ethics – how to relate to others and to the world, so as to develop a good character
Philosophy – how to live a worthwhile life
Religion – how to achieve a transcendent experience
Aesthetics – how to experience the natural harmony present in all things, the “chi” which is the essential energy infusing life
To achieve this learning requires a rigorous, dedicated, life-long commitment, called “shugyo”. The study of and immersion in this and any other traditional Japanese art-form provides the experience of pursuing the most noble of aspirations. It is more than just learning the skills, the movements, the craft aspects. While practitioners strive to be the best of the best in what they are studying, that goal is less important than the process of following the way. Following the path of the brush with shugyo presents the individual with the possibility of releasing the “kami” nature, the divine potential which is in each of us.
(This blog was inspired by the ideas expressed in The Japanese Arts and Self-Cultivation by Robert Edgar Carter – 2008)